Feeling low lately? You’re not the only one. According to the World Health Organization, more than 300 million people worldwide suffer from depression, a condition that, unlike the normal and temporary response to life’s challenges, can become a serious and debilitating health problem. And anxiety disorders are so common the National Institute of Mental Health reports up to 18 percent of adults in America have one. Whether you have a diagnosable mental health issue—something I may be able to help you determine here—or just feel like you’re in a slump, adjusting your diet can make a big difference. Try these four foods that improve mood.


1. Walnuts

Not only do walnuts make a healthy snack thanks to their protein and fiber content, they’re also a good source of magnesium. Research suggests that people who are deficient in this mineral may be at greater risk of developing depression. And because walnuts are low in carbohydrates, you can eat them without having to worry about spiking your insulin levels. As Dr. Drew Ramsey, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons and co-author of The Happiness Diet, told NBC News, “Insulin spikes are a reason people’s moods crap out, particularly in late afternoon.”


2. Oysters

Oysters are packed with zinc, low levels of which have been linked to clinical depression according to Anxiety.org. For people already dealing with depression, science suggests zinc may help antidepressants work better. As I discuss here, studies indicate supplementing with zinc can help modulate testosterone levels, and it has also been shown to help with sexual competency and erectile dysfunction (which is why zinc is on my list of top five supplements to increase sex drive). Can’t stand the texture of raw oysters? Throw ‘em on the grill! Here’s a recipe adapted from Bon Appetit.

• 3 dozen large oysters
• Butter
• Lemon wedges (for serving)
• Hot sauce (for serving)

Heat grill to medium-high heat. Scrub oysters and place, cupped side down, on grill grate. Cover and grill until oysters begin to open, about 2 minutes. Transfer opened oysters to a platter. Let cool slightly, then use an oyster knife or screwdriver to pry shells open, keeping cupped side down and retaining as much liquid as possible. Cut muscles connecting oysters to shells with an oyster knife or paring knife. Serve warm with butter, lemon wedges, and hot sauce.


3. Salmon

This cold-water fish contains high amounts of two mood boosters: vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. Many people are low in vitamin D, which is obtained primarily through sun exposure that we typically don’t get enough of since we all wear sunscreen. Vitamin D has a big impact on your mood, so deficiency may be to blame if you’re feeling down. As for omega-3s, a number of different studies have found that they can help improve symptoms of depression and other mental health issues. They’ve also been shown to be excellent for heart health, as I write about here.

4. Blueberries

Both blueberries and their juice have been shown to have a positive effect on mood thanks to their high concentration of antioxidants known as flavonoids. The Washington Post reports that these same flavonoids may help improve cognition and protect against cellular aging, meaning that blueberries could make you smarter as well as happier. For more information on boosting brain health, see my post here. If you struggle to finish fresh blueberries before they go bad, pick up a bag of frozen ones to have on hand for smoothies like this recipe adapted from the Food Network.

• 1/2 cup milk (or milk alternative) of your choice
• 1/2 cup plain yogurt
• 1 cup frozen blueberries
• 1 teaspoon honey (optional)
• Put all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.

Are you getting the nutrients you need for long-term health? Download my Top 10 Supplements For Men PDF to learn about the most critical supplements you need.

Myles Spar, MD, MPH is the Chief Medical Officer of Vault Health, a national medical practice specializing in care for men, and Is board certified in Internal Medicine and in Integrative Medicine. As a clinician, teacher and researcher on faculty of two major medical centers, he has led the charge for a more proactive, holistic and personalized approach to care that focuses on cutting edge technology and preventative care. Dr. Spar has traveled with the NBA, presented a TEDx Talk, appeared on Dr. Oz, and been featured in publications such as the Men’s Journal and the Los Angeles Times.